Visuals Are King
Here's the thing - everyone's looking for eye-candy. Jaw-dropping images, catchy videos, mind-boggling infographics or animated gifs - we all love visuals.
Whether for a blog, a social media post or a corporate web page, the statistics say it all:
- Tweets with images get 18% more clicks, 89% more favourites and 150% more retweets than those without (Source: Hubspot).
- 80% of your online visitors will watch a video, while only 20% will actually read content in its entirety.
- Your website is 50 times more likely to appear on the first page of search engine results if it includes video.
- Visual content is a key component in each of the top most effective B2B marketing tactics (Source: Hubspot)
We Can't All Be Designers
We can’t all be designers, but we need to be able to create the basics. So when the graphics guru is out of the office and you desperately need those visuals, there are some great tools out there to make your job a whole lot easier. Ok, it’s not going to be the same as that amazing graphic from the uber-cool agency next door (read - never underestimate the power of a brilliant designer), but it’s enough to look good and to grab the attention of your audience.
Find Stunning Photos
Unless you're a budding Cartier-Bresson it's unlikely you have a stash of your own photos just waiting to find their fame online. Don't stress, there's a host of good sites where you can find original, good quality high-resolution images for free.
At Pixabay you can download public domain images without even registering. Like most of these types of sites you can do a search based on keywords or topics, but on this one you can also search on the basis of colour scheme.
Or sign up with Unsplash, where you'll receive an email every 10 days with links to download 10 new images, completely free of charge. They have some stunning original work - if you're in the market for edgy urban-scapes you'll particularly love this site.
At Public Domain Pictures you can search by category as well as seasonal photos, popularity, date and rating. You can also download at different sizes and resolutions.
Create Eye Catching Images
When you're constantly looking for catchy visuals to use across social media and web, you need to have a few handy shortcuts up your sleeve.
So maybe you've found some great photos, but how do you size them the right way, and what if you want to add some clever text and graphics? Unless you're an expert with Photoshop and some of the popular graphics design programmes for pros, your best option is to get online and use the clever tools that have been created for the rest of us mere mortals.
Canva is the go-to, lifesaving tool for all content and social media managers looking for a quick solution. With a bunch of templates allowing you to easily create a graphic for the most popular social media platforms, this one's a gem. Templates are already sized for your Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest posts, and you can choose from a range of images or upload your own to work with.
A user-friendly interface allows you to manipulate text, backgrounds and colours. Many of the options available are free, and the rest are priced at a dollar a piece. There are also templates to help you create presentations, posters and email headers.
Picmonkey is a really useful tool for online photo editing. You have all the basic editing features like cropping, rotation, retouching, resizing and changing the canvas colour. But it also offers a couple of nifty extras like the collage feature. With this you can put a number of photos together, using drag and drop action, choose a layout and make one larger photo of the collection.
The design feature allows you to create a graphic starting with a clean slate rather than your own photo. And it has some templates for social media built in there too. Although it lacks some of the more sophisticated text options you would find in Photoshop, this app gets a major thumbs up as a quick and painless editing tool. The free version has plenty on offer, or you can opt for extra features with the very inexpensive (and ad-free) premium account.
Roll Out Short-Form Video
Knowing that one-third of all online activity involves watching some form of video - we all need to jump in there and start shooting those clips. But we don't have to blow the budget in the process, nor do we need directorial skills-extraordinaire in order to pull it off.
Video Social Apps
Social apps for shooting short-form video are now the norm, and viewers are becoming more accustomed to watching lower quality clips as a result. Shooting a simple short video with a smartphone can give you something to instantly share with fans and followers. With a healthy dose of imagination being key, the actual effort in terms of time and technology takes a back seat.
Roll up apps like Instagram (for a 15 second shoot) and Vine (the ultimate in brief, at 6 seconds long). Or download the Hyperlapse app (by Instagram) to produce a video with a fun and funky fast-forward effect. Take a look at what a Real Estate Agency did with this video using Hyperlapse.
Short Form Video Alternatives
Then there are alternatives like ScreenR, a tool that allows you to shoot a screencast for your audience. 'What’s a screencast’ did you say? Maybe you want to showcase the ins and outs of a new product, or record a simple video tutorial. With this tool you simply record whatever you choose on your desktop, with the option of a voice-over recorded on your built-in microphone. Screencasts can be up to 5 minutes long. Then share it to Facebook or Twitter, upload it to YouTube, or embed it on your site.
A tool like Stupeflix for desktop is another option to make a type of short form video without breaking your back (or the bank) in the process. With this tool you can use your photos and existing videos, insert slides along the way, and sync it all to music within a few minutes. Again, post the result to Facebook or YouTube, or embed it on your site.
Creating great visuals is key to successful content marketing. Business owners, content and social media managers have so many more options these days. There are lots of ways to create engaging material when you have the right tools to hand.
Check out some of the apps we've covered and see how you get on. These are only a few on a long and growing list of options available - let us know which are your favourite tools for dazzling the digital world!